The alleged new head of the Cosa Nostra has been detained in a raid that led to 48 other arrests. Italy's Carabinieri named the suspect as 80-year-old Settimo Mineo, who officially works as a jeweller.
Italian police said on Tuesday they dismantled the upper echelons of the Sicilian Mafia by apprehending 49 people, including the newly-elected chairman of the Sicilian Mafia's top executive body, the Palermo Provincial Commission.
The 80-year-old Settimino Mineo has a long criminal record but his name was not previously known to a wider public. His role had been to help the Cosa Nostra regain its strength and act as a power-broker between crime families.
Mineo was detained in a raid that led to the other arrests. Police said he was heir to notorious Mafia boss Toto Riina, who died in prison last year.
The suspects are accused of extortion, illegal gun possession, arson, Mafia association and other crimes.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called the sweep in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, an "extraordinary operation."
Referring to the top echelons of the Sicilian Mafia, he said the operation had "dismantled the new 'Cupola' of Cosa Nostra."
Salvini's Mafia crackdown
"Our law enforcement agencies are among the best in the world, and these operations do nothing but confirm it," Salvini tweeted.
Salvini also praised police operations in the northern Italian cities of Turin and Bolzano. The raids saw 15 members of the Nigerian mafia arrested in Turin, and eight drug dealers in Bolzano.
Salvini has adopted a heavy-handed approach towards the Mafia. Last month, he took part in the demolition of a villa built illegally by an alleged Mafia family in Rome.
Cosa Nostra has been in decline since the mid 1990s. A Mafia killing campaign of senior judges and politicians was met with a series of high-profile arrests with former Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano being caught in 2006. He died in prison.
The 'Ndrangheta from Calabria has replaced Cosa Nostra as Italy's strongest crime group. It made inroads into Germany and is considered the leading smuggler of cocaine in Europe.